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Amid the velvet hills and craggy peaks of Scotland’s western edge, saints and kings have passed, clans and armies clashed, and poets and rebels have sought refuge. Encounter the untamed Highlands and the Inner Hebrides islands on foot, exploring glittering lakes and waterfalls, fantastic geologic formations, and historic sites that date back more than a thousand years. Climb the forested hills of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, hike the coasts of the isle of Kerrera, and cruise deep into the Cuillin mountain range for a hike among its jagged peaks. Following in the footsteps of famous native Scots such as John Muir, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns, and Bonnie Prince Charlie, learn the rich history and legends of Scotland’s wild western lands.
Explore two islands, two national parks, and the UNESCO World Heritage site of Edinburgh on a variety of hikes and walks.
Hike beneath Ben Nevis with a conservationist and historian from the John Muir Trust.
Venture into ancient castles and historic sites, and discover Highland culture in remote villages.
Encounter fascinating geology, such as the rock pinnacles of the Isle of Skye.
Itinerary - 8 Days
Day 1 — Edinburgh, Scotland
Arrive in Edinburgh and transfer to our hotel. After time to relax, meet for a mid-afternoon walk along the Royal Mile. Step back in time as we wind our way down from Edinburgh Castle past sharp church spires, cobbled alleyways, and Holyrood Palace to Holyrood Park. A short hike brings us up the knoll of Arthur’s Seat, where we’ll have outstanding views of the city. Tonight, gather for an orientation and a welcome dinner at the hotel. Bruntsfield Hotel (D)
Day 2 — Loch Lomond National Park to the West Coast
Head west after breakfast, stopping for a warm-up hike in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park—Scotland’s first national park, established in 2002. Our trail takes us from the banks of Loch Lomond itself, over a low pass before descending to the village of Arrochar, known for its incredible views of a mountain known as ‘The Cobbler’. Afterwards, continue to the West Highlands and settle in to our hotel, enjoying the wonderful sea views or taking a walk in the garden. (5 miles hiking, 3 hours) Loch Melfort Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 3 — Kerrera: The Green Isle
Directly across from Oban lies the isle of Kerrera. Here, we’ll set off on an intriguing hike through history. Pass Horseshoe Bay, where King Alexander II of Scotland died in 1249 while preparing to drive the Norwegian army out of western Scotland. Explore Gylen Castle, perched dramatically on the cliff’s edge. Built as a stronghold of the MacDougall clan in 1582, the castle was besieged and burned in 1647. Head up into the hills to take in spectacular views of the Island of Mull. Return to Oban by ferry this afternoon, and visit the local whisky distillery for a guided tour. (6-7 miles hiking, 4-5 hours) Loch Melfort Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Jura/Kilmartin Glen
After breakfast, set out on a private catamaran cruise on Loch Craignish and along the coast of Jura. Amid the rich waters and scattered islands, search for nesting sea eagles, minke whales, basking sharks, dolphins, and seals, as well as a wide variety of seabirds. Witness the swirling surf of the Corryvreckan Whirlpool, the third largest whirlpool in the world, and enjoy lunch back on land. Take a walk in Kilmartin Glen, home to hundreds of ancient monuments, and stop at the ruins of Dun Add, an Iron Age fort considered by some to be the birthplace of Scotland. (5 miles hiking, 2-3 hours) Loch Melfort Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 5 — Glen Nevis/Isle of Skye
Head north, tracing the eastern shores of Loch Linnhe into a mystical landscape of sweeping slopes and rocky peaks. Pass the western end of Glen Coe, scene of a historic massacre of the MacDonald clan in 1692, before continuing to Fort William. Join a conservationist and John Muir historian for a guided hike beneath the hulking summit of Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the United Kingdom. Later this afternoon, follow the “road to the isles” and cross over the sea to Skye. (3-4 miles hiking, 3 hours) Bosville Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 6 — Cullin Hills
The southern edge of the Island of Skye is fringed by the rocky Cuillin mountains, often called the Black Cuillins for their dark volcanic gabbro. We’ll take the less-traveled route into the Cuillins, approaching from the south by boat to the inaccessible Loch Coruisk. On an incredible hike among these fabled slopes, circumnavigate the loch, taking in magnificent views of the peaks that tower over its shores. (6-7 miles hiking, 4-5 hours) Bosville Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 7 — Northern Skye/Perthshire
The spectacular landscapes of northern Skye rise in soft, grassy slopes that drop off in sheer cliffs, and rock formations that spike and curl. Set off on foot into this magical place, rich with legend and intrigue. Hike beneath the unusual rock formations of the Quiraing and learn a fascinating story of geologic turmoil. Leaving Skye, stop for a visit to the spectacular Eilean Donan Castle. Then continue south to Perthshire and settle into our hotel. (6-7 miles hiking, 4-5 hours)
Fonab Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 8 — Pitlochry to Edinburgh
Enjoy a free morning to explore Pitlochry or take a short hike in the woodlands around the nearby Blair Castle and Gardens. Arrive in Edinburgh in the late afternoon and transfer to the city center or to the airport for your flight home. (B,L)
National Geographic Adventures are unique, active itineraries for intrepid travelers that combine spectacular places, cultural interaction, and physical challenge. You'll explore fascinating, off-the-beaten-path places with top guides, and wherever possible, meet National Geographic experts in the field.
We will be hiking 3 to 5 hours per day (2.5 to 7 miles) on moderate to steep grades at low elevations. During hikes, vehicle support is provided at various points while in the highlands, but will be limited while on the islands. Participants always have the option to rest a day and ride to the next hotel.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.
What To Expect
We will stay in ideally located hotels that reflect the local character.
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